we all have them


It’s one of the things that set human beings apart from tigers and dogs and parakeets.

Although–who knows? Maybe tigers tell awesome stories we just don’t get to hear.

No two human beings see things exactly the same way.  There are always variations–to, sometimes, maddening degrees.  Remember telephone?

It’s beautiful and fascinating.  And yet, one more tool we humans can use to connect…or disconnect.  It’s what makes “truth” so elusive at times.  But–when you hit the truth–when that string ties with that other string?  When you get tethered to someone else and their story?  Magic.

I’m a storyteller.  My parents told me stories, and I probably got my abilities from them–though I doubt they actually recognized it in themselves.  For me, telling stories was the way I survived.  It was my safety net and my raft.  Now–I tell stories in different ways.  Often through photos and more so through exciting new mediums.  But still, essentially, just opening lenses wide to show you what I see.


I think most of us who were alive that day have a story about it.  And every year, some of us probably tell the same story…or variations of it…in our attempts to remember and to unravel it.  It can be hard not to get too attached to these stories–to the words we use and the feelings inside those words.  The things we use to shelter ourselves and numb ourselves.  The way we displace it.

I know I’ve told mine many times.  Maybe too many times.  This year, I didn’t remember.  This year, I didn’t anticipate it or brace myself for it.  I just woke up and went to work–only to be punched by those three innocent digits.

And I thought–I should feel bad.

I felt bad for other reasons–but not for the should.

My primary thought about this day, today, was–that was the world where my mother lived.  Where my friend Lee was alive.  Where this whole crazy life was just starting.  Where Twitter and Facebook didn’t exist.  Where people picked up phones.

And I couldn’t help but miss it.

That simple life where I was 23, and I lived in Westwood.  Where I worked nights on a college campus, though I wasn’t exactly in school still.  Where I hung out with Navy guys and artists.  Where I ate yogurt every day for lunch.  Where life felt so serious when it really wasn’t.  Where I was perpetually broke.  Where I talked to my Mama 3x a day whether I wanted to or not.  Where I was lost and stuck and sad.  Where I had everything to live for but chose to stay there.  Where I hadn’t dreamt of anything like even Myspace.  Where I still typed from an old Gateway, cross-legged on the hot floor of my old bedroom that didn’t have any kind of AC.

And they all died while I stood in my PJs in the living room of our old house.  Watching Peter Jennings.

And, for once, I cried for things that mattered.  Not my hurt feelings or numbed pain.

Months later, Lee would be dead.  Months later, I’d be back in school–then traveling–then engaged.  Then heartbroken.  Then my mother would get sick and two months later, I’d be on that floor telling some guy about her organs.

It’s funny how–when I think of that day–I think of all the days.  All the sad, hopeless, broken days along with all the thrilling joyrides.  I think of innocence and lazy days at the park.  I think of every story I want to tell and every story I want to hear.  Ever.

We all have our stories.  We all have our days when we really can’t stand up or take a deep breath.  Where we survey the room and notice what isn’t there anymore.  And we all have those days–14 years later–when we can’t cry anymore.  We can just watch our hearts spin as we realize how much our lives have changed.


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